Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complex systems that rely on many different components, including a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are generally strong and reliable, it’s not unheard of for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is awry. One example of a sound is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These worrisome noises can be linked to several origins.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is an often reported air conditioner sound you could hear on hot, humid days and is no reason for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is probably to blame. As your air conditioner operates, moisture from the inside air collects on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath. This pan is meant to catch and funnel the condensed water away from your home via a drain line.

Although, if the drain becomes blocked or broken, water can accumulate in the pan, producing a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool underneath. If the dripping noise becomes an annoyance, identify the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and empty it.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a warning sign that the condensate drain line is clogged and needs to be cleared. A float switch is supposed to automatically shut off your conditioner before the drain pan overflows and produces water damage, but the float switch could always break. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll need to fix the issue before your unit will run normally again.

2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running

While air conditioners produce condensate as a part of the cooling process, they do not run on or consume water. What this means is your AC should not ever sound like running water. If you hear this sound, it could indicate the evaporator coil has frozen over and is now thawing and dripping water onto the ground.

This can take place for a few reasons, including:

  • Dirty air filter: A filter plugged with dust, dirt and other particles restricts airflow. This may make the temperature inside the evaporator coil to get below freezing, which then freezes the condensate accumulated on the coil.
  • Low refrigerant level: Chilled refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air as it moves through the evaporator coil. If the network is undercharged or leaking and the refrigerant level is minimal, it loses the capability to absorb the heat. This can cause the temperature to drop below freezing and ice to form on the coil.
  • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and dirt may accumulate on a neglected evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant within it from absorbing heat. When this takes place, the coil might freeze.
  • Broken thermostat: Poor temperature calibration might cause the air conditioner to run constantly, even when the indoor temperature is already at the ideal degree. Continuously running an air conditioner can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes over.
  • Blower problems: The blower moves air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working correctly or running at a low speed, the lack of sufficient airflow may freeze the evaporator coil.

3. The AC Makes a Gurgling or Bubbling Sound

Refrigerant is a crucial element of the cooling process. If a leak has developed or air comes to be stuck in the refrigerant line, you might hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Along those same lines, your system could possibly gurgle as a result of overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC service work to a professional who can make sure the right refrigerant charge.

4. The AC Makes a Hissing Noise

A hissing noise from your air conditioner could indicate one of these issues:

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the site and extent of a refrigerant leak, it may generate more of a hissing noise than a gurgling or bubbling sound.
  • Issues with the compressor: The compressor located in the outside condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it flows through the system. This part of the system may make a hissing noise if it gets defective.
  • Internal valve leak: The valve that manages refrigerant flow through the compressor may also leak and hiss.

Schedule Air Conditioning Services

If you hear a sound like running water from your air conditioner, take steps to diagnose and address the cause to prevent additional damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can diagnose and fix any issue causing your AC to sound like running water, whether that’s condensation buildup, a refrigerant leak, a stopped up drain line or a frozen evaporator coil. Each and every AC repair comes with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or schedule a repair estimate, please contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing.

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